Day 4 search for missing boaters and GBI probe into video of incident continue

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LINCOLN COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – Crews spent a fourth day searching for missing men at Clarks Hill Lake in Lincoln County. Amid the recovery mission is an investigation into several videos circulating on social media from the day the men went into the water.

The boats remain on the lake with sonar looking for Edward “EJ” Kirk and Eynn Wilson. There are even drones searching as well as people in the community trying to assist outside of the search area. This week not only took a toll on the people working, but loved ones waiting on an answer.

“He’s not dead,” Eynn Wilson’s mother Diane Wilson told us this week.

“It was devastating. It was heartbreaking because my youngest brother,” said La’Kesha Kirk Johnson, EJ Kirk’s sister.

Two families are now bearing the burden of waiting until loved ones are recovered from Clarks Hill Lake in Lincoln County.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources Cpl. Bobby Timmerman, a Game Warden, joins others who have spent the week involved with the search. He told us, “Each case is different. Sometimes it’s quick, sometimes it’s not. We’re going to do our best to locate them as quick as we can.”

Along with DNR, Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, Columbia County Fire Rescue and Dive Team spent four days in five boats on the lake using sonar and drones. And while they search, the community remains in shock too.

Eileen Elliott, who recently located to Martinez, went out this week to show friends the lake. She learned then of the search. “My heart goes out to the families. You go out to have a good time and it ends up like this. It’s very sad,” she said.

We learned on Day 3 of the search that the GBI joined the agencies, including Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Division in an investigation into the boating incident. This came after videos circulated on social media showing what appears to be someone pushing EJ Kirk into the water. His family saw the video too, sharing that the 37-year-old could not swim and questioning the crowd on the boat.

“When it comes to having friends around, just watch the company that you keep and the people that you have around you,” LaTricia Kirk said. “Some people, I feel like, aren’t your real friends.”

Family members say Kirk and Wilson were childhood friends who both attended Glenn Hills High School. Both are fathers too.

LaTricia Kirk added, “Don’t be that person who holds the phone. Try to do more to save a life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that someone took the video because the truth came out from that video.”

While some people may want to help by searching in the water, DNR’s spokesperson said more people in the search area of the water can cause the water to get muddy, impacting how well the divers can see. It can also damage the very expensive equipment there. We continue to follow this search and the investigation.

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

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